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Bridal Designer Amsale Aberra Dies at 64: Trailblazing Designer Made a Mark With Minimalistic Gowns

Amsale Aberra(Photo by Andrei Jackamets/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Trendsetting bridal designer Amsale Aberra, founder, co-owner and creative director of the Amsale fashion house, died following a battle with uterine cancer Sunday, April 1, surrounded by close family and friends at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in NYC. She was 64.

Aberra got her start designing wedding gowns when she decided to design her own back in 1985. The designer found the market to be saturated with over-the-top, big-shouldered wedding gowns, lacking in the simple designs that were more her aesthetic. The following year, she continued on with her experiments, starting her namesake line and now-iconic simple, classic gowns that have come to define a new wave of bridal design.

“What can you say about an intelligent and innovative woman?” Mara Urshel and Ronnie Rothstein, co-owners of bridal giant Kleinfeld, tell The Knot in an exclusive statement. “She was personally adored and respected by everyone who came into contact with her since she designed her very first wedding dress… her own. Amsale was the trendsetter who introduced modern wedding dresses to brides-to-be, from real life princesses to Hollywood celebrities or, just the girl next store.”

Aberra’s husband, Clarence O’Neill Brown (known as Neil), remembered Amsale’s influence in a statement.

“Amsale was not only an inspiration to the company, but someone who inspired and impacted everyone around her with her strength, kindness, and humility,” he said. “Working side by side we spent 360 degrees of our life together, and I know only too well both her creative genius and her infinite goodness. Words cannot express the personal loss that we feel, but we are comforted by the avalanche of support we’ve received and the commitment of our team to carry on Amsale’s legacy.”

Amsale’s aesthetic was effortlessly chic and minimalist, with each gown using just one or two different fabrics, as compared to the more traditional multi-layered gowns.

“She really was a trendsetter in the business,” Urshel told Women’s Wear Daily in a separate statement. “She was the first one who really introduced very classic lines, beautiful clothes and getting away from all the old traditions of lace, beads and everything that really wasn’t modern anymore. She really created the modern wedding dress. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the money to promote it at the time that she did it. And a lot of other people kind of did the same thing later on. But she stayed true to her course. You could always tell an Amsale.”

Amsale was “the inventor of the modern wedding dress,” Mark Ingram, owner of Mark Ingram Atelier, told WWD. “She was doing strapless, plain and sheer illusion necklines and sleeves before anybody in the late Eighties.”

Over the course of her career, Amsale’s designs have been featured on the big screen, in films such as The Hangover and 27 Dresses, and she has dressed celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Bethenny Frankel, Gayle King and Salma Hayek on the red carpet and on the set of photo shoots.

She is survived by her husband and partner, Neil Brown, daughter Rachel Amsale Brown, her father Aberra Moltot and her half-sister Aster Yilma.